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Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness

Probe the ocean depths in this intriguing course that explores what we know about the world's oceans from the tidal zones to the deepest points on the ocean floor.
Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness is rated 4.4 out of 5 by 85.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good introductory course I have greatly enjoyed this course, and learned much about the fundamental core concepts of oceanography. The material is organized well, and the lectures build on one another to help even non-experts like me grasp highly sophisticated concepts such as how the earth and oceans came to be, how the ocean basins are constantly being recreated, and how life began in the ocean. Professor Tobin’s delivery is down-to-earth and accessible. I can see why he was voted best teacher at UW. I don’t consider myself to be adept at science (I’m an attorney because I gravitated away from science and math in college), but at age 59, I am finally getting a good education in the fundamentals via courses like this. Money and time well spent! Thanks Professor Tobin and Great Courses!
Date published: 2021-08-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am not very far in this but what I have heard so far I love. I am always been interested in the Ocean and course is just what I needed.I even live on the water in a Bay.
Date published: 2021-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent complement I generally avoid bundled products. But this case was my exception. I bought this course in combination with 1725, "Life in the world's oceans". I am pleased that I did as the two courses are very complementary and both well worth the effort.
Date published: 2021-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love it it is so interesting. Great for school. I love the way he tells it.
Date published: 2021-03-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very informative, but needs fact checking This is a mixed review. Susan is a graduate of U Wisconsin, so wow, Professor Tobin! Susan has her BS in Geomorphology and I come out of McGill in Mining Engineering. Both are advanced SCUBA divers. We are well versed in physical sciences. First let me say, this is one of 3 courses that fundamentally altered my understanding of the planet I live on. The other two America's National Parks a Geology of North America and Wonders of Geology (both 6 star courses) form a solid fondation. We travel around boring friends and family with, "Oh look that's....." something we learned. The reason I gave this course a 4 is I think it needs a disclaimer. We have a daughter with a photographic memory. International Bachelorette better than 4.0. The problem is she can parrot back what she was taught, tests well because she memorized the process, that doesn't mean she understands the subject. She can't infer a new hypnosis from it. You get that feeling from Dr. Tobin. He can neither question what he was taught, nor see beyond. While the other two professors mentioned above clearly have politically correct ecological leanings, they have no problem pointing out what conflicts with that nor supporting it with facts. Tobin wears his beliefs/what he was taught on his sleeve and only presents that position. Repeatedly he teaches things that are just not true. For example he states above a certain temperature corals reefs die. We dive on reefs that are routinely above that temperature and have been for at least a century. You constantly have to be questioning the validity of his material. Which is sad because the vast majority is very informative and rock solid. You will learn a lot, if something seems a little off, research it yourself and take him with a grain of salt. I have done much of this course twice because I found it so valuable. I certainly recommend it.
Date published: 2021-02-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear, concise yet comprehensive overview I have a background in the physical sciences, but had no prior exposure to oceanography, and I thoroughly enjoyed this overview! Fascinating! The explanations of concepts were clear and concise, and presented in an engaging way. It is clear Professor Tobin loves his topic - first qualification for a great teacher. I finished the course wanting to learn more!
Date published: 2021-01-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learnt more in one course Vs 4 others Please do one more course from this guy he is a gem! Words won't do justice to this course but I will try. One of the Best Courses on Site! The way he explains complicated phenomenon is a rare treat. The Breadth is awesome. He keeps details to a level which retains interest - as too many details can detract (which plagues many good teachers on this site) My most favorite course.
Date published: 2020-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course, would like to see a follow-up This course provides a good introduction to oceans, ranging from the physical processes (currents, winds, temperatures) to chemistry to zoology to ecology. It has changed the way I see this thing called the ocean which covers 80% of the earth. The graphics are very good and the TTC has clearly devoted a lot of energy into for visualising complex topics like Elkmann's transport. Having done some other science topics in an actual university, I find the production values excellent. The guidebook is good, though it has the problem of many TTC courses of not being sufficiently concise. I miss the old courses, such as the Terror of History, where notes were kept down to one page. I think the course could be improved and made more relevant to people today by devoting more time to the environmental challenges facing the ocean (such as acidification, global warming, pollution, overfishing) which unfortunately are pushed into three lectures. I realize that The Great Courses is, in general, terrified of bringing politics into their courses (and having read reviews where customer says "I will burn these tapes because this professor dares to express an opinion to the left of Ronald Raegan," I can understand why) but I found it disappointing that the professor didn't spend more time discussing humanities impact on the oceans.
Date published: 2020-11-24
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Discover the wonder, delight, and awe-inspiring majesty of Earth's ocean with Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness. Professor Harold J. Tobin, an ocean scientist who has visited landscapes on the seabed that no human eyes have seen before, takes you on a scientific expedition to fathom the ocean's many mysteries&;amp;-from its shallowest tidal zone to its deepest depths. Requiring no background in science, these 36 intensively illustrated lectures will give you a thorough appreciation for the ocean as a system arguably more intricate and intriguing than the continents themselves.


Harold J. Tobin
Harold J. Tobin

We human beings have been fascinated with the ocean for millennia. Who among us has not stared out at the sea in wonder, wondering what is beneath the waves. What lies out there? What is it that makes the ocean the way that it is?


University of Washington

Dr. Harold J. Tobin is Professor in the Department of Earth and Space Sciences and Director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network at the University of Washington in Seattle. He earned his B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University and his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Tobin was named a Best Instructor by students at UW-Madison, and he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Among his other honors is NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Group Achievement Award for contributions to the astronaut training program. A specialist in marine geology and geophysics, Professor Tobin has spent nearly a year-and-a-half of his life at sea on 10 oceangoing research expeditions. His seagoing work has also included dives to more than a mile below the surface in the submarine Alvin. Since 2004, he has been Chief Scientist for the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program's Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone Experiment, an ongoing U.S.–Japan collaboration on the causes of submarine earthquakes and tsunami that is the largest scientific ocean drilling project in history. Professor Tobin has published more than 40 papers and articles in scholarly journals, and his work has been featured on television programs as well as in numerous magazine and newspaper articles.

By This Professor

Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness
Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness


Diving In-The Ocean Adventure

01: Diving In-The Ocean Adventure

Begin your study of the ocean from every angle, examining Earth's watery realm in light of geology, biology, chemistry, meteorology, and other fields. In this lecture, survey the extent of the ocean and the approaches that oceanographers take to understanding it.

31 min
Explorers, Navigators, Pioneering Scientists

02: Explorers, Navigators, Pioneering Scientists

The early explorers of the ocean were interested in charting its islands, dimensions, and resources-and in using it as a highway for trade. Relive the exploits of these mariners, who included Europeans, Chinese, and Polynesians. Only later did scientific exploration of the ocean begin.

33 min
Ocean Basics and Ocean Basins

03: Ocean Basics and Ocean Basins

As recently as the 1950s, geologists envisioned the ocean basins as a submerged version of the continents. Explore the topography of the seabed, discovering that it is shaped by geological forces fundamentally different from those on land.

32 min
Mapping the Sea-Soundings to Satellites

04: Mapping the Sea-Soundings to Satellites

The ocean floor was once as mysterious as the surface of another planet. Investigate the technologies involved in measuring bathymetry, the undersea counterpart of topography. Weighted ropes and cables for gauging the depth of the sea have given way to sophisticated sonar from ships and radar from satellites.

34 min
Habitats-Sunlit Shelves to the Dark Abyss

05: Habitats-Sunlit Shelves to the Dark Abyss

Take a tour of organisms that live from the shallows to the ocean floor. Learn how to classify ocean zones, and discover the importance of temperature, chemistry, nutrients, light, and other factors for different life forms-from active swimmers to passive floaters and bottom dwellers.

32 min
The Spreading Sea Floor and Mid-Ocean Ridges

06: The Spreading Sea Floor and Mid-Ocean Ridges

What made the ocean floor the way it is? Trace the evidence that ocean basins are geologically young and that new oceanic crust is being continually formed at mid-ocean ridges, pushing and rifting continental plates in a process called plate tectonics.

33 min
The Plunging Sea Floor and Deep-Sea Trenches

07: The Plunging Sea Floor and Deep-Sea Trenches

Investigate subduction zones, where oceanic crust plunges beneath an overriding tectonic plate. These margins are associated with deep-sea trenches, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Examine other features, such as hotspots, which are a mid-plate phenomenon that includes the Hawaiian Islands chain.

32 min
The Formation of the Earth and Its Ocean

08: The Formation of the Earth and Its Ocean

Cover 9 billion years of cosmic history-from the big bang, to the accretion of the sun and planets, to the formation of Earth's oceans 4 billion years ago. The water in the oceans came from water vapor in volcanic eruptions and possibly from comet impacts.

30 min
The Early Ocean and the Origins of Life

09: The Early Ocean and the Origins of Life

Explore scenarios for the origin of life, which may have begun around deep-sea hot springs. The oceans have maintained roughly the same conditions over the entire history of life on Earth, even though the sea floor has renewed itself many times over through plate tectonics.

34 min
Marine Sediments-Archives of the Ocean

10: Marine Sediments-Archives of the Ocean

Ocean sediments are like tree rings that can be "read" as a history of the ocean and climate through time. Investigate the different sources of sediments, which range from products of erosion on land, to the remains of sea creatures, to ejecta from asteroid impacts.

31 min
Offshore Oil and Gas-Resources and Risks

11: Offshore Oil and Gas-Resources and Risks

Learn the origin of petroleum and natural gas deposits, which formed under very specific conditions in marine sediments. As an example of the challenges of oil recovery, survey the technology of deep-water drilling, focusing on the disastrous blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

34 min
The Enduring Chemistry of Seawater

12: The Enduring Chemistry of Seawater

Why is the sea salty? Why isn't it getting saltier? Probe these and other mysteries of ocean chemistry, looking at the remarkable stability and uniformity of seawater over time. Also study the role of water and the conjectured role of life in driving plate tectonics.

30 min
How the Physics of Water Controls the Ocean

13: How the Physics of Water Controls the Ocean

Analyze the surprising properties that keep the ocean liquid and make water the defining physical substance for life. Among them is its ability to retain heat, which has kept Earth in a narrow temperature range hospitable to life for billions of years. Also investigate the propagation of light in water and why the ocean is blue.

32 min
Waves-Motion in the Ocean

14: Waves-Motion in the Ocean

Chart the dynamics of wind-generated waves, which include almost all ocean waves. See how they form, grow in size, travel for thousands of miles, and then break on shore. The big waves preferred by surfers come from remote regions that have the ocean's stormiest weather.

30 min
Rogue Waves and Tsunami

15: Rogue Waves and Tsunami

Long considered a mariners' tall tale, abnormally high "rogue" waves are now well documented. Understand the physics of why they form and the yearly toll they take on shipping. Then study tsunami, or seismic sea waves, which are generated when undersea earthquakes displace huge volumes of water, often with catastrophic results.

32 min
Tides in Theory and Practice

16: Tides in Theory and Practice

Tides are caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Learn that the timing and height of tides are far more complex than the daily motions of the moon and sun suggest-due to the influences of coastal features, the Coriolis effect, and other factors.

30 min
Marine Life, Energy, and Food Webs

17: Marine Life, Energy, and Food Webs

Trace the path of energy and food through oceanic ecosystems, which have a far higher turnover of biomass than the terrestrial equivalents. As a result, most of what grows in the oceans is very quickly consumed. Learn why warm, temperate seas are often nutrient-poor compared with polar waters.

34 min
Tiny Plankton-The Most Abundant Life on Earth

18: Tiny Plankton-The Most Abundant Life on Earth

Survey some of the many species of plankton, which are passive, floating, and drifting organisms. Microscopic plankton are ubiquitous throughout the oceans and represent all three of the basic biological domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya.

31 min
Soft-Bodied Life in the Dark, Open Depths

19: Soft-Bodied Life in the Dark, Open Depths

Investigate the soft-bodied organisms that live at great depths and have no skeletons or shells. Little known until recently, this group includes a variety of creatures whose amorphous bodies are often destroyed by nets and who only came to light through studies from submersibles.

33 min
Swimming-The Many Fish in the Sea

20: Swimming-The Many Fish in the Sea

Contrasting with free-floating plankton, nekton are the ocean's swimmers. In this lecture, study the most numerous nekton-fish-focusing on their streamlining, gills, schooling, and other adaptations. Also, examine mollusks, including the octopus, squid, and nautilus.

34 min
Marine Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals

21: Marine Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals

Turn to the nekton among birds, reptiles, and mammals. These feature some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet, including albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, sea turtles, manatees, seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins. Focus on the adaptations that allow them to thrive in marine environments.

34 min
Whaling, Fisheries, and Farming the Ocean

22: Whaling, Fisheries, and Farming the Ocean

Examine the economic exploitation of marine life, beginning with the history of whaling and continuing to the present, when fishing is the only significant source of hunted food. Weigh the alternatives of commercial fishing and mariculture in an era of rapidly declining fish populations.

34 min
Where Sea Meets the Land and Why Coasts Vary

23: Where Sea Meets the Land and Why Coasts Vary

Have you ever walked along a beach or stood on a high cliff overlooking the sea and wondered how the land got to be that way? Learn how erosion, deposition, sea-level change, plate tectonics, and other factors have produced the characteristic coastlines of the world.

32 min
Where Rivers Meet the Sea - Estuaries and Deltas

24: Where Rivers Meet the Sea - Estuaries and Deltas

River mouths, deltas, tidal inlets, fjords, and enclosed bays are places where freshwater and seawater mix. Explore these complex zones, which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth. Many marine organisms carry out key parts of their lifecycles in such environments.

30 min
Coastal Erosion-Beaches and Sea Cliffs

25: Coastal Erosion-Beaches and Sea Cliffs

Coastlines are constantly changing features. Examine what happens when structures are built to halt or reverse the change, especially at a time when sea level is rising. Most human-engineered solutions turn out to be short-term at best, and many have unintended consequences.

31 min
Tidal Life, Sea Forests, and Coral Reefs

26: Tidal Life, Sea Forests, and Coral Reefs

Begin your survey of the organisms and ecosystems that flourish in the most complex and varied part of the ocean: the benthic zone, or sea bottom. Start in the shallows, where life inhabits a wide range of niches-from the crashing waves of tide pools to placid mudflats.

32 min
Deep Bottom Life and Hydrothermal Vents

27: Deep Bottom Life and Hydrothermal Vents

Continue your investigation of the benthic zone by exploring the deep ocean bottom, where astonishing diversity exists in cold, darkness, and high pressure. Your tour includes sea cucumbers, brittle stars, herds of sea pigs, and the unique community around deep sea vents, which extracts energy from the Earth itself.

32 min
Trade Winds-The Circulation of Heat and Wind

28: Trade Winds-The Circulation of Heat and Wind

Explore another ocean-the ocean of air-which interacts with Earth's seas through the force of wind on water. Investigate the cause of wind patterns such as the trade winds, westerlies, and polar easterlies. Two crucial factors are uneven distribution of heat and the Coriolis effect due to Earth's rotation.

29 min
Heavy Weather-Storms and Hurricanes

29: Heavy Weather-Storms and Hurricanes

Gain insight into the world's largest storms by looking at the interaction of ocean, atmosphere, and land, and how it produces nor'easters, monsoons, and hurricanes. Focus on the life cycle of hurricanes-how they form, intensify, and often produce devastating storm surges, as happened during Hurricane Katrina.

34 min
The Gulf Stream to Gyres-Vast Surface Currents

30: The Gulf Stream to Gyres-Vast Surface Currents

Follow the chain of events that initiate surface currents in the ocean. Big currents such as the Gulf Stream are caused mainly by wind friction. The mapping of currents has been aided by incidents such as the accidental spill of thousands of floating bath toys in the Pacific in 1992.

32 min
Upwelling, Downwelling, and El Nino

31: Upwelling, Downwelling, and El Nino

Winds drive surface currents, and together wind and currents set in motion large-scale upwelling and downwelling. Study these patterns and the disturbances that lead to El Niño and La Niña cycles, which cause major disruptions in fisheries and weather.

32 min
The Deepest, Slowest River-Polar Bottom Water

32: The Deepest, Slowest River-Polar Bottom Water

While surface currents move a typical water molecule around an ocean basin in a year or two, down deep water circulates much more slowly, taking hundreds to thousands of years to make a circuit. Trace how dense, cold water masses from the polar regions slowly but inexorably move the great bulk of the ocean.

32 min
The Ocean and Global Climate

33: The Ocean and Global Climate

The ocean contains most of the heat in the ocean-atmosphere system, and surface currents distribute it around the planet. Begin your study of the ocean's reaction to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is leading to climate change worldwide.

32 min
The Warming, Rising Sea

34: The Warming, Rising Sea

Learn that one conjectured effect of global warming-the shutting down of the Gulf Stream leading to a new ice age in Europe-is unlikely. But the planet is already on a path to melting glaciers and steadily rising seas, with catastrophic implications for low-lying populated areas.

34 min
Marine Pollution-The Impact of Toxins

35: Marine Pollution-The Impact of Toxins

Turn to the problem of marine pollution, which includes runoff from land and deliberate dumping, in addition to acidification from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Also look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where plastic particles and other debris have concentrated in a rotating mid-ocean current.

34 min
The Future Ocean

36: The Future Ocean

Finish the course by looking into the future. Constant change will continue to be the state of the ocean, just as it always has been. But humans can promote change for the better in a variety of ways, including using the national park model to establish marine sanctuaries. Learn other choices you can make to help preserve this wonder of the planet.

36 min